Chelsea German, over at the indispensable HumanProgress.org, offers evidence against the popular meme – today in the U.S. most famously mouthed by Bernie Sanders – that “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”
In dealing with property rights, it’s nice that Reich comes out against slavery—but it is troublesome how he dismisses the right of all persons to determine what job offers to accept for work in the open market. The issue comes to center stage on the question of the minimum wage, where Reich takes the sunny view that the huge increase of the minimum wage to $15 per hour from its current level of $7.25 will largely be a transfer of wealth from rich CEOs and their shareholders to workers, who can use the money in question to get off of public assistance.
Dream on! Reich is in serious denial when he assumes that hard pressed firms in competitive markets won’t make serious changes in how they do business when labor costs move sharply higher. If the minimum wage shoots up, it will start to make more economic sense for these firms to replace low-skilled labor with machines and technologies that can do the same work. The employees that do remain will be, by and large, more skilled, shutting out the poor further. For example, Reich never considers the exceedingly high levels of unemployment among minority teenagers, whom regulation has shut out of the labor market.